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As any dog owner knows, your pet is a valued member of your family. And like any other family member, you want what’s best or them. One way to ensure you’re giving your friend the best possible care is to figure out what your dog’s needs are. But seeing how your pet can’t exactly tell you its needs, you’re somewhat limited. That’s where dog DNA testing can play an important role.
Whether from knowing it’s exact breed identification, potential health risks, or the importance of its genetic traits, the more you know about your pet, the better you can care for it. But what dog DNA test is best? How accurate are they? And are the results even useful?
In our Embark review, we’ll cover what I learned about the company when testing my dog Max. So before you put the wellbeing of your dog in the hands of an at-home DNA testing company, read our Embark review and see if this doggy genetic testing kit is right for you and your furry friend.
Currently, Embark has two different tests to choose from. The costs of each are as follows:
Your DNA testing kit includes:
With Embark, DNA testing your dog is quick and easy. Once you’ve received your doggy genetic testing kit, you’ll simply need to do take the following steps:
They may also use your information to investigate any potential violations of the company’s terms of service and when they’re legally obligated to do so. This also shouldn’t be a problem as long as you’re not trying to do anything illegal through them.
The main concern is that they may use your data and that which they collect through their website for advertising and research purposes. While it’s possible to opt-out of having your dog’s genetic data used for research, the fact that this is done at all has raised some privacy concerns among users.
Other than Embark, there are a few other notable companies that offer similar services. These other doggy genetic testing companies include:
Embark’s dog DNA test results cover four different aspects of your dog’s genetic makeup. This may vary depending on the kit you order, with the health portion of your test results being exclusive to their Breed + Health Test Kit customers. We’ll look at each of the things covered in the test results in greater detail below.
One of the first sections you’ll likely look at in your dog’s test results is its breed identification. By looking at your pet’s genes, Embark will delve into its paternal and maternal line. With this information, Embark will create a ‘family tree’ for your pet, laying out its genetic makeup and breed. The company is able to test for over 350 different dog breeds in total.
In my doggo’s breed identification results, I learned Max is about half labrador (49.8%) and half poodle (50.2%). On his paternal line, which looks at the Y-chromosome, my buddy has haplogroup A1a. This is the most common haplogroup found in dogs bred in the United States and Europe and is found in many village dogs (non-purebred, free-roaming wild dogs found across the world) from these regions.
Max’s maternal line, which Embark discovers by looking at his mitochondrial DNA, shows that his haplotype is B1. This is also common in American and European dogs. I learned breeds with the B1 gene were likely brought to the Americas by Europeans during the early colonization of the new world.
As all pet owners know, your dog’s health is of the utmost importance. In the health screening portion of the test results, you can get a better idea of the issues you may need to watch out for. Embark looks for over 190 different possible genetic health conditions that are common among animals that share your dog’s genetic makeup.
In my best friend Max’s results, I learned that he may develop degenerative myelopathy and glaucoma later on in his life. Not only this, but my results included actionable results to help me stay on top of these potential future genetic conditions. This included vet-actionable health information, which is what vets use to interpret a dog’s clinical data.
From your dog’s coat color to the shape of its snout and the length of its tail, in this portion of your test results, you’ll learn about the physical traits that make your pet unique.
For Max, who is still a puppy, I learned that he’ll one day grow to be relatively large. This has helped me determine how much exercise he should get and the amount of food I should be shoveling into his bowl, all useful information to keep Max as healthy as possible.
This is one of my favorite parts about Embark’s test results — discovering if any of your doggy’s distant relatives have also taken the company’s DNA tests. By combing through their database of DNA results, Embark knows if your pet has any long lost relatives whose parents were also curious enough to genetically test their furry friend.
Here, I found out that Max shares 15% of his DNA with a Labradoodle named Kat (weird name for a dog, I know) who is currently living in Richmond, Virginia. While this information isn’t all that useful, it’s fun to know that one of my dog’s relatives also has some inquisitive parents who spent time collecting their companion’s saliva.
Embark even allows you to contact their owners in case you’re interested in arranging a future playdate (I’m still waiting to hear back from Kat’s parents).
While your Embark test results are pretty reliable, they’re no replacement for regular checkups with the vet. This is especially true for the health portion of the DNA results. While you may learn about your dog’s potential to develop certain genetic health conditions, this is by no means a diagnosis.
Some vets have even expressed concern about the accuracy of these health results. A missed genetic condition could lead to you overlooking a potentially serious issue that your dog may have. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may receive results that state your dog is prone to a condition it never develops, leading to unnecessary medical treatments that could hurt your pooch in the long run.
So use these results as a fun way to learn a bit more about your pet, but don’t take anything they say as a concrete diagnosis.
While I thought Embark’s genetic testing was a fun way to learn a little bit more about my four-legged friend, they’re not much more than that. While they do include some interesting and actionable results in the traits and health portions, everything here has to be taken with a grain of salt.
These results aren’t necessarily 100% accurate. Treating them like they are could even lead to unnecessary treatments or taking actions that aren’t beneficial, or worse, could be harmful.
Regardless of this, I had a great time reading about everything Max’s DNA had to tell me. So use this test as a fun way to get to know your pet better. Don’t use it as a replacement for regular checkups and visits to the vet.
Through the use of a small saliva sample, Embark analyzes over 200,000 genetic markers and compares them to the latest research to deliver a wealth of information about your pet.
Yes and no. The breed and traits portion of your test can tell you about certain behaviors that are common among dogs with a similar genetic makeup. This can help you to determine what sort of training could be beneficial to your pet. But as every dog’s personality can vary greatly, regardless of genetics, the things you learn here aren’t necessarily 100% applicable to your specific animal’s behaviors.
Your DNA results can tell you about the health conditions common among dogs with similar genetics to yours. However, this is by no means a diagnosis, and your results can’t tell you, with 100% accuracy, anything solid about your dog’s genetic health. Only a vet will be able to do that.
I learned that I’m the proud owner of a labradoodle, who may be prone to degenerative myelopathy and glaucoma in his older age. I also learned he will likely grow large and that he has a long lost relative living in Virginia.